Network Notebook: Reaction to First Week of NBA Playoffs

The 2017 NBA Playoffs started last Saturday. As we enter the second weekend, it's time to take stock as we consider what's likely to happen round-by-round in the weeks ahead.

Some quick thoughts.

GOLDEN STATE IS IN A CLASS BY THEMSELVES
Regardless of what happens this weekend in Portland, we do have confirmation that the Warriors are well clear of the NBA field in Power Ratings. With or without Kevin Durant, they have more potent and varied offensive weaponry than everyone else. And, they also have a great defense that's hidden by high scoring games in up-tempo basketball. Golden State's defense is very disruptive. Whoever they face down the road will have to play four peak games to beat them. The task for now is mostly deciding what the Warriors want to win by each night, because they'll likely be able to "name the score" through the first and second rounds.

CLEVELAND'S OFFENSE IS UNSTOPPABLE IN THE EAST
Like this team needed to add Kyle Korver! LeBron James has saved his legs through the regular season. Now he's ready to challenge the basket at will, while also having the energy to make three-pointers if defenders back away at the arc. If James gets double-teamed, a variety of guys (including Korver) can hit open looks. You know that both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are great offensive players. Cleveland crushed Indiana in the fourth quarter Thursday night when those guys were on the bench! Yes, defense is a clear concern. Can anyone in the East fully exploit that? Cleveland should be able to outscore whoever they face. They can even spot a decent team a 25-point halftime lead and still win!

It's not a lock that we're going to get Warriors/Cavs for the third straight NBA Finals. But, both of those teams have improved their dynamism since last June. Who's going to stop them?

SAN ANTONIO AND WINNER OF RAPTORS/BUCKS BEST SPOILERS
Sure, it's not much of a "spoiler" call to say the #2 seed in the West has a shot to take out the #1 seed (if they even reach the Western finals). But, the Spurs at their very best can certain compete with Golden State. The problem is, they don't seem likely to reach "very best" four times in a short series. San Antonio looked great at home vs. Memphis, but then turned mortal in the first road game. They'll have to win at Golden State if they reach the third round, and aren't assured of winning all of their home games.

In the East, Milwaukee's defensive athleticism could cause some headaches for the Cavs, as long as the Bucks youngsters can avoid foul trouble. That will be tough to do with LeBron trying to draw fouls on his drives. Toronto has time to rally back and advance. The Raptors stat profile is best for taking out Cleveland because they're solid on both sides of the floor. All other possibilities have glaring weaknesses (Washington's defense, Chicago's inconsistent shooters).

HOUSTON MUST KEEP HARDEN FRESH
Houston certainly has a chance to make some history in the Western brackets. The problem here is that this is mostly just an updated version of Steve Nash's Phoenix Suns...and Nash's Suns usually ran out of gas in the postseason. James Harden is carrying a huge load...and the burden of that will be even larger in a projected second round showdown with San Antonio. Should the Rockets spring a series upset...Harden then has to play great repeatedly in virtual track meets with the Warriors. Head coach Mike D'Antoni likes to ride his stars "like Secretariat." But Secretariat didn't run marathons.

LOOK FOR VALUE ON OVER/UNDERS
There's so much media coverage on superstars and teams, that the betting markets may be losing site of how to properly price the Over/Unders. The Cleveland/Indiana series in particular jumps out. All three of those game flew Over the totals in non-surprising fashion. Cleveland has a great offense and a poor defense. Indiana has some scorers, but can't stop LeBron. Why have the posted totals been so low? Be sure you study the boxscores of every game to get as good a read as possible on how coaching tactics and personnel skill sets will influence scoring totals. Smart bettors find weak spots in the line and exploit them.

Playoff coverage will continue here in the NOTEBOOK next week. In the meantime, LET'S GO MAKE SOME MONEY!

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